“The Christian is called upon to be the partner of God in the work of the conversion of men” (William Barclay 1907–1978)
The effort that has gone into technical and medical development in our lifetime is almost beyond comprehension. Whilst these developments and progress in many areas have given us conveniences and comforts, they have made life more complicated, peace more difficult, and the human heart more troubled. Much of this is dismissed as a means to an end. Undoubtedly we have improved means, but unfortunately we have not improved ends. We have better and faster ways of getting there but no better or safer places to go. We can save more time but we are not making any better use of the time we save.
Everyone agrees that we have made far more advances in the scientific world than we have made in the world of morals and ethics. Spiritually, we have not kept pace with our progress in the realm of science, invention and development. We seem to hang on every word of new discoveries, new inventions, new breakthroughs in science, new ways to destroy ourselves and the planet. Our cars are becoming gadgets on wheels. Our homes are operated by push-buttons – garage doors that open; kitchens that a man needs a degree to boil an egg in.
In these times of daily pressures, of troubled hearts and world turmoil, what is important is living a life that can be shared with honour. It costs something to be a Christian – no man knew this better than Paul. When writing to his protégé Timothy he reminded him that he must be single-minded and determined not to be taken in by the demands of life or side-tracked by divisive arguments (2 Timothy 2:14-16). This is Paul’s last and most moving letter, written from prison and awaiting execution. He writes after a lifetime of service and suffering for Christ, yet there is no hint of self-pity; there are no regrets and his last word is one of encouragement. It was indeed an honourable life to be shared with Timothy and all Christians who have followed.
Paul, frequently persecuted and tormented, did not give up for a moment. He was engaged in the fight of his life “that the truth of the gospel might remain with you” (Gal.2:5). Paul desired to visit the new believers and see how they were doing and proposed to Barnabas that they return to the cities where they proclaimed the word of the Lord. Paul’s travels were extensive over many years and he did much to share the word of God and bring Christianity to the region.
It has been rightly suggested that Paul wrote his own epitaph in 2 Timothy 4:6-8: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul’s epitaph is also a call to us to share the the gospel message, reminding us, as he did Timothy, that we must be single-minded and not to be taken in by the demands of life. Our reward will be abundant. Jesus assured the disciples that anyone who gives up something valuable for his sake will be repaid many times over in this life. We are called only to reach out to those near to us, sharing the faith with those whose hearts are troubled and confused and fearful of the future.
“The glory of God, and, as our only means to glorifying him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life.” C.S. Lewis.